Welcome to The Interchange This email was sent to you by The Interchange. We appreciate your support and thank you for signing-up. If you’re reading this as a post on our site, sign up here so you can receive it directly in the future. Every week, I’ll take a look at the hottest fintech news of the previous week. This will include everything, from trends and funding rounds to analysis of a specific space to hot takes about a company or phenomenon. There’s a lot of fintech news out there and it’s my job to stay on top of it — and make sense of it — so you can stay in the know. — Mary Ann
Like many of you, I’m sure, I was caught up last week watching the downfall of FTX unfold. It was a startling development in the world of crypto, and while I don’t cover the space directly, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the goings-on — and not in a good way.
For more information, see our Chain Reaction podcast here.
I also couldn’t help paying attention to the train wreck of Elon Musk taking over Twitter And Meta’11,000 people are being let go. Check out our Equity podcast (ofwhich I am a cohost) for more information.
But I digress.
Last week, I said goodbye to the newsletter and hoped that this week would bring more positive news. Unfortunately, that was not true.
Real estate fintech Redfin It announced that it would be laying off 13% of its employees, or 862 people on November 9, in response to the slowing housing market. This was followed by Opendoor’s The week before, 550 people were laid off, or 18%, of the company’s workforce. Zillow’s In October, 300 employees were cut. It also follows Redfin’s letting go of 470 employees in June.
Redfin also announced it was closing RedfinNow (its iBuying division), To that end, CEO Glenn Kelman wrote in an all-hands email: “One problem is that the share gains we could attribute to iBuying have become less certain as we rolled it out more broadly, especially now that our offers are so low…And the second problem is that iBuying is a staggering amount of money and risk for a now-uncertain benefit. We’ve tied up hundreds of millions of dollars in houses that you yourself wouldn’t want to own right now.”
Kelman went on to say that the company’s June layoff was in response to Redfin’s expectation that it would sell fewer houses in 2022. The latest layoff “assumes the downturn will last at least through 2023.”
Redfin’s, Zillow’s and Opendoor’s layoffs aren’t the only ones in the industry. Digital mortgage lender Better.com In the last few weeks, another layoff was conducted. According to one source, 240 employees were laid off on November 4. And San Francisco Business Times reporter Alex Barreira tweeted on November 11 that dozens more workers were let go, sharing colorful details of the company’s WARN notice, in which Better.com said it was not able to provide notification earlier as the separations were the result of a “dramatic deterioration” in the company’s business. When I reached out to the company about the layoffs, a spokesperson wrote via email: “Better is focused on making prudent decisions that account for current market dynamics.”
Okay, back to Redfin. One thing that stood out most to me with regard to that company’s latest round of layoffs was Kelman’s candor as he addressed employees. In his email, he said: “To every departing employee who put your faith in Redfin, thank you. I’m sorry that we don’t have enough sales to keep paying you.”
Kelman is putting his personal bets on foreign real estate markets. In September, he co-invested in a Seattle startup called Far Homes that was founded by Redfin alums and is focused on “buying and selling real estate in foreign markets,” as reported by GeekWire.
As their companies have suffered, or laid off staff, CEOs have been especially publically sorry. Besides Kelman, other examples this week include Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitting he overestimated how long the post-pandemic revenue surge would last, saying: “I got this wrong, and I take responsibility for that.”
Also last week, FTX CEO and founder Sam Bankman-Fried admitted he “fucked up” and “should have done better” right before FTX declared bankruptcy and he stepped down from his role. This comes after the crypto exchange was valued earlier this year at $32 BILLION. In Early August, Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev took responsibility for the company’s letting go of 23% of its staff, saying: “This is on me.”
Even Better.com CEO Vishal Garg admitted at one point that he had not been disciplined over the previous 18 months, telling employees: “We made $250 million last year, and you know what, we probably pissed away $200 million.”
What does this all mean? Yes, CEOs can be human. Flawed human beings just like everyone else. In some cases, the over-hiring decision was made in the genuine (or foolish!) belief that the employees would be needed in the future. In other cases, decisions were less honorable and more about furthering the executive’s own agenda.
Unfortunately, either way, thousands of employees — and many consumers — are paying the price.
Image Credits Kuzma / Getty Images
Weekly News
After acquiring Long Game, a mobile app that gamified financial and was launched months later, Truist Financial Corporation has introduced the Truist Foundry, an innovation division that it says “will function as a startup within the bank.” The goal will be to deliver “game-changing projects” and serve the bank’s lines of business. A spokesperson told me via email that specifically, the Truist Foundry will work on “building software solutions that drive value and market leadership for the bank.” In other words, it looks like one of the United States’ largest banks is getting even more serious about its digital efforts.
Instacart Dutch payments giant has been tapped Adyen to serve as “an additional payments processing partner.” As part of the new partnership, the companies said in a press release that Instacart will leverage Adyen functionality, including PINless debit enablement of transactions “to further optimize and improve authorization rates for an even more seamless customer experience.” Pymnts has more here.
Another example of fintech that works for good. Startup offering banking-as-a service Synctera Are you interested in partnering with Solvent, a fintech company that is building “affordable financial services” to support those who were previously incarcerated. One aspect of the link-up is Synctera’s recently announced Smart Charge Card, which does not require a credit review or a company to fund its customers’ balances. Overall, Synctera says it is helping supply Solvent with “a suite of personal finance and banking tools, products and services aimed to empower and build wealth among ex-cons, a group of Americans often underserved and overlooked.”
BNPL player Affirm Last week’s financial results were mixed. While its fiscal first quarter revenue of $361.62 million beat analysts’ estimates, its net loss of 86 cents per share was greater than expected. The stock plummeted to a 52-week low at $11.94 before rebounding to $15.88 Friday morning at the time. The company tried to put a positive spin by sharing via email that active customers grew 69% year over year and total transactions increased at 13.3 million, representing 97% year-over year growth. It claimed that net charges-off rates and delinquencies were at or below pre-pandemic levels in the quarter.
From Sarah Perez: “Elon Musk last week detailed his vision for Twitter’s plan to enter the payments market during a live-streamed meeting with Twitter Twitter Spaces hosts advertisers. The new Twitter owner suggested that, in the future, users would be able to send money to others on the platform, extract their funds to authenticated bank accounts and, later, perhaps, be offered a high-yield money market account to encourage them to move their cash to Twitter.”
Also from Sarah Perez: “Google announced it’s expanding its user choice billing pilot, which allows Android app developers to use other payment systems besides Google’s own. The program will now be available in new markets, including the U.S. and Brazil, and Bumble will join Spotify as a pilot tester. Google also announced that Spotify will begin rolling out the program’s implementation this week. The company first announced its intention to launch a third-party billing option back in March of this year, with Spotify as the initial tester.” More here.
Tage Kene-Okafor KudaThe Nigerian-operating, London-based startup, eBanking, has been taking on incumbent banks in Nigeria. They offer a mobile-first and personalized bank service. Now, they are expanding to the U.K. with a remittance product for Nigerians in the Diaspora. Since its launch in Nigeria, the digital bank has had some success. Kuda claims to be home to more than 5 million users. This is more than the number of users it had last August when it raised $55 million in Series B funding. The money was used to expand into other African countries such as Ghana and Uganda. Kuda is not planning to expand into these countries, but instead it will launch in the U.K. Kuda claims this is part of a global expansion drive.
Image Credits Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch
Funding and M&A
TechCrunch: Seen
Thomson Reuters to Acquire SurePrep, a Tax Automation Company, for $500M
As pet ownership booms among Gen Z, Millennials, pet insurance startups are chasing the market
Bond and Yassir raise $150M for their super app
Quona Capital invests $332M in startups focusing on financial inclusion
Atlar, a startup for payment automation, was founded by former Tink employees
Capital One raises $96M for travel app Hopper to double down on social media commerce
Blnk is a fintech company that offers instant consumer credit to Egypt. It has raised $32M in debts and equity
Tellus, which is backed by A16z wants to offer consumers a higher rate of savings. Here’s how.
And other places:
Savvy Wealth raises $11 million capital
After Malhotra had sold his two startups, Ritik Malhotra and Muller Zhang were able to create Savvy. Elph was purchased by Brex in 2014 and Straem by Box in 2014. Long story short, he was advised to seek out a financial advisor, and after sampling several different options, he was inspired to start Savvy in 2021 — a national registered investment advisor (RIA) built on what the company describes as “a digital first wealth management firm centered around modernizing human financial advice.”
Just a quick reminder that TechCrunch loves scoops. So if you’ve got a news tip or inside information about a topic we have covered (or haven’t yet but should). I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me via Signal, DMs or at 408.204.3036. Send us a message at [email protected] If you prefer anonymity, click here to reach us. This includes SecureDrop (instructions are here) and other encrypted messaging apps.
That’s it from me for this week. Here’s to more good news than bad next week! Until then, take good care…xoxo, Mary Ann



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